Information for Applicants
Applications are accepted from current students, recent graduates, and U.S. college/university faculty.
The US Forest Service Research Participation Programs are educational and training programs designed to provide college students, recent graduates, and university faculty opportunities to participate in project-specific USFS research and developmental activities.
Because of the educational nature of these programs, participants must fall into one of the following categories:
- Students must be enrolled in an accredited U.S. college or university pursuing a degree in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), and must maintain satisfactory progress in academic coursework.
- Postgraduates must have received their degree in an appropriate STEM discipline within five years of the appointment start date, or must complete all requirements for such a degree prior to the desired start date.
- Faculty must be full-time faculty from an accredited U.S. college or university.
Established scientists interested in new research training activities will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the USFS program coordinator and ORISE management staff if there is an opportunity posting that requires an established scientist.
Applications will be considered without regard to race, color, age, sex, religion, national origin, mental or physical disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, or covered veteran’s status.
The program is typically open to qualified U.S. citizens, foreign citizens who are eligible to participate as J-1 Exchange Visitors, and foreign citizens eligible for other visa categories approved by USFS and ORISE. However, a few USFS offices may only appoint U.S. citizens due to the sensitive nature of the research performed and/or restricted facility access. Any such restrictions will be clearly stated in the project description of the opportunity posting. For more information on eligibility requirements for non-U.S. citizens, please see Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens.
Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens
In this section you will find information which is intended to be used as a guide. If selected to participate, ORISE Immigration Services is required to verify your immigration status eligibility.
There are various types of immigration statuses that allow foreign nationals to participate in some Research Participation Programs where U.S. citizenship is not required. Generally, participants are not required to hold U.S. citizenship. However, a few USFS offices may have restricted areas that may only allow U.S. citizens access due to the sensitive nature of the research performed.
Most Commonly Accepted Statuses
- F1-Curricular Practical Training – with approved Form I-20
- F1-Optional Practical Training – with USCIS-approved EAD card
- J-1 Research Scholar – must have a minimum of Bachelor’s degree; appointment length for more than six months (renewable up to a maximum of five years)
- J- 1 Short-Term Scholar – must have a minimum of Bachelor’s degree; appointment length for maximum of six months
- J-1 Student – with authorization letter and/or DS-2019 authorized by university sponsor
- J-2 Dependent – with USCIS-approved EAD card
- Lawful Permanent Resident – with LPR (green) card (conditional and permanent)
- EAD -AOS – adjustment of status with USCIS-approved EAD card
The Designated School Official (DSO) is the official point of contact for foreign national students. The DSO will determine if the foreign national is eligible for CPT authorization by endorsing the Form I-20. CPT can be authorized for part-time participation during the academic year (no more than 20 hours/week) and full-time during the summer or regular academic breaks (up to 40 hours/week).
OPT must be recommended by the DSO and requires USCIS authorization with the issuance of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Approval for the EAD takes several months to obtain from USCIS. The first 12-months of OPT is acceptable.
In the event that you plan to use an F-1 status to participate in these programs, pre- or post-completion OPT is acceptable (up to 12 months); however, the 24-month OPT STEM is not allowed.
All participants with J-1 status are temporarily in the United States and must demonstrate an intention to return to their home country at the end of their exchange program.
The exchange of Research Scholars promotes the exchange of ideas, research, mutual enrichment and linkages between research and academic institutions in the United States and foreign countries. This category is for a foreign national who enters the United States for the primary purpose of conducting research and observing in connection with research projects at research institutions, post-secondary accredited academic institutions, or similar types of institutions.
Short-Term Scholars are professors, research scholars and other individuals with similar education or accomplishments travel to the United States on a short-term visit to conduct research, observe, train or demonstrate special skills at research institutions, post-secondary accredited academic institutions or similar types of institutions. No program extension will be considered beyond the six-month maximum. No change of category will be considered.
ORAU sponsors the J-1 status (Research Scholar and Short-Term Scholar categories only) for selected, eligible participants on a case-by-case basis. If a candidate already has a J-1 status as a research scholar or short-term scholar (up to the maximum allowed length) and is currently in the United States, he/she may be eligible for a transfer from his/her current sponsor’s program.
All J-1 recipients and J-2 dependents must have insurance in effect which covers the exchange visitor for sickness or accident during the period of time that an exchange visitor participates in the sponsor’s exchange visitor program. Failure to maintain the appropriate insurance would result in termination of J-1 authorization for the participant and dependents. Such circumstances would require leaving the program and the United States.
Foreign students at American degree-granting, post-secondary, accredited academic institutions may participate in an ORISE research experience. This requires an authorization letter and/or Form DS-2019 authorized by the academic institution.
A J-1 exchange visitor’s spouse and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 years, may be eligible to apply for J-2 status. A J-2 dependent (if age appropriate) may be eligible to apply for authorization to participate by requesting an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. J-2 dependents with valid EAD cards are eligible to participate in ORISE programs, assuming all other eligibility requirements are met.
A foreign national who has filed an I-485 application for adjustment of status may apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) during the period that the application is pending with USCIS. Foreign nationals with an EAD-AOS may participate in ORISE programs.
Because the Research Participation Programs are educational/training programs, and not employment programs, ORAU cannot sponsor participants with H-1B status. A selected participant who already holds H-1B status would need to apply and qualify to change to J-1 status in order to join the program. (H-1B status is employer- and site-specific.)
B-1/B-2 statuses are not appropriate for these research programs.
Prior to Starting the Appointment
Although the mentor may have selected the candidate for a project, there are additional steps to follow before the candidate can be cleared to begin the appointment.
Required Application Materials
- ORISE application through Zintellect
- Current résumé
- Unofficial transcript is required for an application. If selected for a fellowship, an official transcript will be required.
- Two references from persons who are familiar with the candidate’s educational qualifications (including a reference from a current or past faculty member if possible)
The general steps are outlined below:
- USFS mentor submits the to ORISE in Zintellect signifying approval of the selected candidate, and authorizing the appointment period, project description, funds to be used to cover the costs of the appointment, and any additional details of the appointment.
- Once ORISE receives and reviews the authorized selection form and confirms the funding availability, ORISE initiates the official appointment letter.
- All candidates must accept the appointment offer from ORISE prior to reporting to the facility to ensure that they will be eligible to receive a stipend. The appointment letter addendum will outline any contingencies that must be met prior to starting their appointment.
- All participants are required to have health insurance in place no later than the first day of the appointment and maintain health insurance throughout the duration of the appointment.
- Selected candidates who are U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents must verify their citizenship before starting the appointment.
- Selected candidates who are not U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents must consult with ORISE immigration staff upon acceptance of the appointment to ensure they have the authorizations necessary for participation. Selected candidates cannot start their appointment until the ORISE immigration staff have notified they are cleared to start. Also, see Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens for clarification on the types of authorizations acceptable for the program.
- On the date the participant begins, the USFS program coordinator must certify that the candidate reported to the facility. Once all of these steps are complete, ORISE will begin stipend payments.
Current USFS Research Opportunities
A list of all current opportunities with ORISE Research Participation Programs at the USFS.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to the questions most commonly asked by applicants.
Can current students participate in research at USFS through ORISE?
Current undergraduate and graduate students may hold appointments during the summer or part-time appointments during the semester. Please visit current opportunities to find projects that are currently accepting applications from students.
Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to participate in ORISE programs?
Non-citizens with appropriate immigration statuses are eligible for most USFS appointments; a few USFS research projects require U.S. citizenship for security reasons. For more information on eligible immigration statuses, please see Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens.
The project I want to apply for requires a completed degree. Do I need to have my degree completed before I apply, or can I apply if I am earning it within a few months?
If you anticipate receiving your degree shortly, then you may apply. If you are selected, you will be required to show proof of degree completion before beginning the appointment.
How long will my appointment last?
Initial appointments are usually made for a maximum of one year. They may be extended up to a maximum total of five years, based upon program needs, funding availability, and participant eligibility. Shorter appointments are also available, based upon program needs and candidate availability. Many project descriptions state the expected duration of the appointment.
How many references do I need? Will it help me to send more?
Two references are required. Use your discretion as to whether additional references will strengthen your application by highlighting aspects of your background that were not addressed elsewhere. Selection officials will not be able to see your application until at least one reference has been submitted.
Who should fill out a recommendation for me?
You should obtain recommendations from people familiar with your educational and professional qualifications. At least one recommender should be a professor or other individual who can comment on your educational experience.
How are participants selected?
Participants are selected by the USFS mentor at USFS. ORISE staff will prescreen applications to ensure that all required materials have been received and that the participant has attained the required educational level, but are not otherwise involved in the selection process.
How long does the application process take?
If you have applied for a specific project, the USFS mentor for that project will determine how long applications will be accepted, and how long the review process will take. Once the mentor has selected a candidate, there are several steps that must be completed before the candidate can receive an appointment letter. The process between receiving your application and actual start date may vary depending on several factors including background checks and the security process.
How to I know if the opportunity is still accepting applications?
If you see the opportunity on Zintellect then it is still actively accepting applications. If no deadline is listed then applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.
Is there anything I can do to improve my chances of getting an appointment?
Please ensure that all of the necessary application materials have been received and that you have obtained the necessary educational qualifications. Successful applicants generally apply for a specific project. Please review the current opportunities that are available.
Are there opportunities at USFS through ORISE that are not posted on the ORISE website?
All opportunities for ORISE Research Participation Programs at USFS are listed in Zintellect. Check back often for additional postings.
My mentor has told me that I have been selected for an appointment. When will I receive notification from ORISE?
All ORISE appointments must be submitted by the USFS mentor. ORISE will send an appointment letter once this submission is received and the funding for the appointment is in place. See start of appointment for more information.
Can I relocate before I receive my appointment letter?
We do not advise you to do this. Only ORISE is authorized to offer you an appointment.